Mental Floss

Drawing in Sand: Kseniya Simonova

Andréa Fernandes

A performance by Kseniya Simonova on Ukraine's Got Talent has become a viral hit on the internet, receiving more than 6 million views. We've scrounged up some background information on the 24-year-old artist and her performance"¦

1. Kseniya Simonova wasn't trained as an artist and hasn't been practicing for very long, either. Her business was one of many to fall apart with the credit crunch, and she used her newfound time to begin drawing in sand. She started out drawing in the sand at the beach and had only been experimenting with the medium for about a year when she appeared on Ukraine's Got Talent.

2. Simonova's sand animation—a series of evolving images drawn in a sand-filled lightbox projected onto a screen—brought the audience and judges to tears with its depiction of the "Great Patriotic War" (as Ukrainians call the USSR's fight against the Nazis during WWII). Simonova received a standing ovation and was named the inaugural winner of the television competition, netting approximately $120,000.

3. The story in Simonova's winning animation travels through the German invasion of the Ukraine, from a couple under a starry sky through warplanes and chaos to the Ukrainian monument to their Unknown Soldier and ending with a mother and child saying goodbye to a soldier. WWII was an especially sorrowful time in Ukraine's history—the country lost between 8 and 11 million people, approximately 25 percent of its population. They suffered the largest loss of any country and attributed for about 20 percent of the total deaths during WWII.

4. Since the show, Simonova has returned to her hometown of Evpatoria, where she has stated she'll stay. She has no interest in traveling or growing her fame. According to Simonova, "I only entered because there was a child I know who needed an operation and I wanted to help. I did not mean to make the whole country cry." She used her prize money to set up a children's charity and buy "a modest home" for herself.

5. After videos of Simonova's performances appeared on YouTube, the praises for the young artist began rolling in. With her "brilliant display of a hitherto unknown art form," Simonova is "well on the way to becoming an international sensation." Freddy Nager at Jawbone.TV went so far as to say Simonova "has become the most popular artist in any genre or medium to emerge from the Ukraine since poet-painter Taras Shevchenko in 1840."

The image at top, which reads "You are always near" in Ukrainian, is the final image from Simonova's winning performance on Ukraine's Got Talent, shown in the YouTube video directly above. (If that player doesn't work, you can view it here.) Fans should check out Kseniya Simonova's Facebook page; Russia Today's coverage of Simonova; and one of Simonova's other performances for Ukraine's Got Talent. "Feel Art Again" appears three times a week. Looking for a particular artist? Visit our archive for a complete listing of all 250+ artists that have been featured. You can e-mail us at with details of current exhibitions, for sources or further reading, or to suggest artists. Or you can head to our Facebook page, where you can do everything in one place.